Mediastinal Tumors

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Overview

Mediastinal tumors are tumors that develop in the mediastinum – the area of the chest that separates the lungs and contains the heart, aorta, esophagus, thymus and trachea.

Mediastinal tumors can form and grow in the thymic, nerve, lymphatic or soft tissue and are seen in the front (anterior), middle, or back (posterior) of the mediastinum. In adults, the tumor is typically located in the front and is a malignant thymoma or lymphoma. In children, the tumor is usually located in the back, forms in the nerves, and is typically benign.

Our board-certified thoracic surgeons focus exclusively on surgery of the lungs and the chest cavity and are experts in minimally invasive surgery including robotic and video-assisted techniques.

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Diagnosis

Many patients with mediastinal tumors have no symptoms. Others may experience one or more of the following symptoms as a result of the tumor pressing on surrounding organs and structures:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Night sweats
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Neck swelling

Most mediastinal tumors are discovered when a patient has a chest x-ray performed after experiencing these symptoms or for another unrelated condition. Follow-up tests may include:

  • CT chest scan
  • CT-guided needle biopsy
  • MRI
  • Mediastinoscopy with biopsy — a minimally invasive technique that involves a lighted tube placed through a small incision in the neck. A small sample of tissue is taken for diagnostic purposes.

Surgical Treatment of Mediastinal Tumors

Depending on the type, stage and location of the tumor, surgery or minimally invasive procedures are used in combination with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy, Radiation and Targeted Therapies

Chemotherapy is usually given before or after surgery to reduce or destroy any remaining cancer cells. Radiation may be used before or after surgery in combination with the chemotherapy. In addition to conventional chemotherapy and radiation, we also offer clinical trials and/or targeted therapies for these tumors. Our comprehensive approach “individualizes” the therapy to the patient’s tumor.

Surgery

When surgery is recommended, our thoracic surgeons use a minimally invasive approach whenever possible. These procedures include video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) and robotic-assisted surgery. Patients experience reduced pain, less scarring and a quicker recovery following a minimally invasive surgical procedure.